Sawdust: being a trainee
Ali was the Assistant Costume Designer for Sawdust, our 2017 show. She tells us what it's been like.
I’m the costume trainee. I first got involved when I attended the Hidden Spire design sessions in the Crisis Art Room at the Old Fire Station over the summer. I already had an interest in fashion and design, and after being interviewed and offered the role I was a mixture of excited and nervous.
Since the rehearsal period began, I’ve been working with Suzie Burlton, the costume designer, to realise her designs which she developed with input from Crisis clients including me. Suzie has been amazing to work with as she’s both kind and helpful.
During the production I’ve taken some of the responsibility for the lions, doing research and feeding in ideas before Suzie and Lizzy McBain, the director, made the final decision. The lions have been complicated. How human are they? How and when do their lion traits come out? How much are they individuals and how much are they a pack? From a design perspective we went into rehearsals to see the work the three actors and the direction team were doing to help us nail down the final designs. We’ve tried to create costumes to show humans dressed as lions who have been in Viva Vintage Circus for so long, and been so disempowered within the circus hierarchy, that they’re slowly becoming more feral. Alongside their individual fashion choices, they also each have manes, ears and tails of the animal they’re pretending to be.
I’ve learnt a lot during my involvement with Hidden Spire – how to do measurements, fittings and make alterations. As well as a lot of adding glitz and glam to each of the costumes before breaking them down again to give them a more lived-in, downtrodden feel in keeping with the rest of the show.
For me, the overall look of the costumes is fading glamour. If it was in good condition it would be bright and worthy of being on any stage in the world but after we’ve taken cheese-graters, spray-paint and generally broken them down they’re perfect for their home in the Sawdust world.
The project has meant that I have had an opportunity to gain experience in something I’d otherwise have little chance of getting into. This type of project is important as it’s a different thing to be a part of. A lot of homeless charities solely focus on your current difficulties and the everyday struggles rather than nurturing what someone has the potential to become.